Selina Tusitala Marsh Named New Zealand Poet Laureate

Selina Tusitala Marsh

Selina Tusitala Marsh has been named New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2017-2019 by the National Library, succeeding C.K. Stead. Each Laureate is awarded NZ$80,000 (about US$57,849) over two years "to create new work and promote poetry throughout the country." They also receive a carved tokotoko or orator's stick, symbolizing their authority and status.

Marsh is the award-winning author of three collections of poetry, including Fast Talking PI (2009), Dark Sparring (2013), and her latest book, Tightrope. She was Commonwealth Poet in 2016. A strong advocate for Pasifika poetry and literature, she lectures at the University of Auckland, specializing in Maori and Pacific literature. She was the first Pacific Islander to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland.

"We are delighted to announce Selina as the country's new Laureate,'' said Chris Szekely, chief librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library. "She is an extraordinary poet, performer and literary advocate."

Marsh said: "I'm honored and humbled by this Award. It is a wonderful opportunity to extend the poetic page and stage to this nation's multi-colored, multi-hued voices. Samoans have the to'oto'o, the orator's staff, a symbol of the authority to speak on behalf of a group. To be recognised in this way is breath-taking. To occupy the role is breath-giving--I can't wait to take the Laureate's tokotoko to the people and make poetry."

Her acceptance speech, read last month on National Poetry Day, began: "I accept this award on behalf of the ten-year-old/ at St Joseph's in Otahuhu/ who found a word to rhyme with monocle..."

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